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THE industrial sector is just a leadership shakeup away from having one of the highest rates of female chief executive officers (CEO) in the S&P 500.
Before you get too excited, the numbers are still small: There are 69 industrial companies on the benchmark index and as of the beginning of the year, four of them had female CEOs, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
But Cummins Inc announced on July 14 that Jennifer Rumsey, the company’s president and chief operating officer, will take over as CEO from Tom Linebarger on Aug 1. Rumsey will be the first female CEO at the Columbus, Indiana-based maker of truck engines and power-generation equipment and only the seventh leader of the company in its more than 100-year history.
Another industrial stalwart may soon follow Cummins’ example: Trucking company JB Hunt Transport Services Inc announced this week that longtime CEO John Roberts III will hand the title of president to chief commercial officer Shelley Simpson on Aug 1.
That likely makes Simpson the heir apparent for the CEO job, too, Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Lee Klaskow wrote in a note.
The number of industrial female CEOs is rising, with Rumsey set to assume the top job at Cummins.,
Should Simpson eventually become JB Hunt’s CEO (and no existing women leaders hand over the baton to men before then), the percentage of industrial female executives on the S&P 500 would rise to about 9%, putting the sector just behind financials in terms of gender diversity.
That’s not a herculean ratio by any stretch, but it still represents a meaningful step forward for an industry that has long nursed a reputation for being a boys club that’s less progressive than other corners of the economy. For context, only about 5% of the technology companies on the S&P 500 (as defined by Bloomberg) have female executives.
“The culture and the diversity within Cummins is one of our strengths. I don’t always experience that same level of diversity when I go out to other companies.
It still happens sometimes at Cummins – and more times outside of Cummins – where I look around the meeting or a dinner, and I’m the only woman,” Rumsey said in an interview. Customers and suppliers “often want to talk about, ‘How do you do that at Cummins?’
“One thing that is important is that you can look up to the top of the company and see people that look like you and believe you can advance.”
Rumsey has a background in engineering and previously served as Cummins’ chief technical officer. It was actually the Cummins executive whom she succeeded in that post in 2015 – John Wall – who encouraged her to pursue a career in engineering in the first place, she said.
Rumsey grew up in Columbus, Indiana, where Cummins was founded and got to know Wall through her church.